Kalaripayattu is a very graceful martial art with lots of physical and mental benefits for its practitioners. We felt that this art form must be learnt by people outside Kerala too and wanted to give them an opportunity to do so,” says Sundarajan T S, manager, students’ academic affairs and liaison, KJ Somaiya College.
This September, Somaiya College introduced a three-year degree course in the ancient Kerala martial art. To help Mumbaiites learn the discipline, the college has roped in Belraj Soni, a well-known Kalaripayattu trainer.
Thirty-one year-old Gunjan Gupta, who signed up for the course, says, “Unlike other martial arts, Kalaripayattu is very graceful and requires you to utilise your entire body.”
Gupta claims that she has grown more comfortable with herbody ever since she started attending the Kalaripayattu classes. “Performing the graceful movements involved in the martial art form gives you a different high altogether. Being a theatre person, I have also greatly benefited from the improvisation of expressions that are taught in class,” says Gupta.
Eighteen year-old Mitali Wagh, who is also attending the course is very excited about the sword-fighting that will be taught to the students next year. “Kalaripayattu can be used for self-defence and is useful for women in Mumbai. Moreover, attending the course for a month has done wonders to my body. It has become more flexible and resilient,” she says.
Cure for modern diseases
A martial art practised by warriors, Kalaripayattu has great potential to improve the health of a student,” says Soni. “The limbs and systems in one’s body, from head to toe, are brought into play in the practice of the martial art. It has the power to diagnose and heal many physical ailments of a non-congenital nature,” he adds.
Soni claims muscles and ligaments remain supple by regular practice. Wear and tear can be cured by applying specific liniments and following remedial exercises.
“Breath control is an integral part of the practice and lung-related problems reduce with time. Many of the exercises help avoid coronary and circulatory disorders. Obesity, more prevalent among womenfolk, can be controlled by regular Kalari practice,” says Soni.
Self-defending martial art
Kalaripayattu includes strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms, weaponry and healing methods. A regular kalari practitioner can defend any kind of attack (with or without weapons) and can discourage or overwhelm an enemy using the Kalari techniques.
Soni recommends this martial art form for self-defence. Kalaripayattu, he feels, will give women a sense of independence in a city like Mumbai, where women often have to tackle unfavourable situations. “Kalaripayattu gives the practitioner the self-confidence to face any testing situation — physical and mental,” says Soni.
“In short, inexpensive care and cure is one of the hallmarks of Kalaripayattu which is quite welcome in an era, when one finds what is achieved for a song from Kalari, cost a fortune in today’s medical setup,” he concludes.